One of the most common criticisms of Nintendo these days also happens to be one of its strongest praises a decade and a half ago. The company is second to none in creating exclusive franchises that fans want to keep coming back to, but those on the outside looking in can't seem to grasp why they refuse to branch out and try new things.
Simply put, it's the Nintendo way. Nintendo makes Mario. Nintendo makes Zelda. Nintendo makes Metroid, Kirby, Donkey Kong, and whatever else it has on the back burner. That's the way the universe works, and creative brain over at Nintendo, Shigeru Miyamoto, sees no problem with that.
In an interview Game Informer, Miyamoto responded to the criticism of Nintendo's lack of new IP, framed in the context of replying to his coworkers, not competition.
"Certainly within Nintendo, we have people internally who are saying, 'Well, we have our old characters from our old games, and that's old IP, and we should think about creating new IP.' But the question that we always ask is: 'Does a new character really make it a new game?
And to me, the answer to that is no. What makes it a new game is new gameplay and new interactions. So when we're creating a game, we're always looking at it from, 'What is the gameplay, and how are making that gameplay new?' And then, 'Who is the character that is best suited to that gameplay?'"
Going to have to disagree with Miyamoto on this one here. Yes, I would be playing an entirely new game if I were playing as two random characters in a Mario & Luigi RPG. The same goes for Okami, which is an entirely new game because of the character and art design, despite boiling down into a Zelda adventure.
And I certainly would be playing a new and different game if Super Smash Bros. had an entirely new cast.
Nintendo has even shown in the past that it has to create new characters to break into genres. It didn't really have a series suitable for an RTS, and thus had to create Captain Olimar and the Pikmin to make a break into the genre. At the same time, it would have been criticized for jamming Mario into an RTS.
Nintendo needed a solid RPG series when JRPGs was taking off in America, and it came up with 150 new characters for the Pokemon games. When deeper, harder, and more serious RPGs were becoming the norm, Fire Emblem finally began to get localized.
I have no problem with Nintendo sticking to what works, and it is the promise of Nintendo franchises free from the controversy of socialized gaming that is making me want a Wii U this holiday season. However, a little branching out might not be such a bad idea now and then. As I said before, it worked for Pokémon and it worked for Pikmin.
It did not work for Steel Diver, but then again, how much charisma does a submarine have?
One new character and franchise every half a decade or so isn't going to hurt anyone, I promise. And if that fails, you can always turn to Hideki Kamiya, the guy ironically behind Okami, because he has 101 wonderful new characters lined up this holiday season for you.